It’s difficult to believe but I just checked, the latest series on Top Gear is number twenty seven which means I must have been watching it since I was a teenager. The current version is the latest attempt to replace the Jeremy Clarkson version which proved to be so incredibly popular. It’s had a revamp and yet another cull, with only Chris Harris I think surviving from the last version of Top Gear Online.
Here’s what the Guardian’s TV correspondent had to say of the latest incarnation..
Remind me: where had we got to with Top Gear? Ever since Jeremy Clarkson got sacked for punching that producer – amazingly, more than four years ago – the BBC has struggled to replace, or revive, or reboot the formula that made the show such a storming success. There was the new model with Matt LeBlanc and Chris Evans that didn’t really work. Then they tried a cut-and-shut version – without Evans, but with LeBlanc –but that didn’t really work either.
The latest incarnation on BBC Two retains Evans’s replacement, motoring journalist Chris Harris, and partners him with – wait for it – Freddie Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness, the former England cricket captain and the erstwhile host of history’s most execrable game show, Take Me Out. It seems that the producers of Top Gear had developed a casting strategy based on that parlour game where you pull the names of celebrities out of a hat, and everyone keeps saying: “Sorry, I have no idea who this person is.”
But you know what? Against all the odds, it works. It gives me no particular pleasure to suggest that some of the original magic of Top Gear has been rekindled by this unlikely trio, but, miraculously, it has. The larky, bad-tempered chemistry that existed between Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond has been replicated in a slightly sunnier form, and with a fresh energy. The old format has life in it yet.
The first thing you notice is how young they all look. I mean relatively – they are all in their 40s – but compared with the grumpy, fed-up trio that took their act to Amazon and launched The Grand Tour, Harris, Flintoff and McGuinness look like a bold experiment in youth outreach. And to have not one but two northern presenters seems, in the context of Top Gear, like a stab at diversity. “I genuinely cannot understand a single word you two are saying,” says Harris at the outset.
I think that’s a great summary of the show, it looked like it could be painful, contrived copy of the original. In some ways it was, it keeps to a similar format yet there’s something the last few series was missing – chemistry. I don’t know if it’s contrived but the presenters genuinely seems to get on and enjoy what they are doing. The laughs aren’t quite as forced and I personally smiled quite a lot during the first two episodes. I’ve even managed to forgive Paddy McGuinness for bringing more of Keith Lemon to our screens. At least the celebrity section has been scrapped so hopefully he won’t appear on that!
Watching Top Gear Online on the BBC
The BBC iPlayer has had a recent upgrade in order to stave off the commercial competitors like Netflix. Now I know its not free because we pay our license fee, or for people abroad who have to use a VPN to access the BBC online. However it really does provide a serious amount of entertainment now, with literally thousands of hours of content archived plus access to live streaming TV too. Currently this is the Top Gear archive contents which you can watch now –
- Series 24 – 4 months (November 2019)
- Series 25 – 4 months (November 2019)
- Best Of – 6 months (January 2020)
- Series 26 – 8 months (March 2020)
- Series 27 – Available for a year (July 2020)
That’s a lots of entertainment from just one show and the iPlayer archive is packed full of documentaries, box sets, dramas and other great TV. From the recent announcement it appears that the majority of new content will be available for 12 months before it’s removed from the archive. Most of the Top Gear content is of course released on DVDs as well if you want to keep the shows for longer than the BBC archive allows.
We mentioned that you can watch the show online even from outside the United Kingdom and in fact millions of people already do this. You have to over come two hurdles which are not that difficult, but could be a problem for some people.
- Hide your IP address and location
- Click on “I do have a TV license’ when prompted.
The first is easily accomplished by using a VPN or something called Smart DNS which will hide your location allowing you to pick the country you appear to be from. In the case of the BBC, ITV or any UK TV stations you would of course select a UK server before connecting to the website. Your traffic will be routed through the server you select thus it will appear to be in the UK.
Click this link or on the image on the right hand side of the page if you want to try the super secure, VPN that I use to watch the BBC on my travels (and the other UK TV stations). It works anywhere an you can watch the latest Top Gear shows from anywhere in the world from France to Japan. Don’t worry it’s very, very easy to use and importantly extremely fast.
For the BBC there is another step which is less of a technological barrier but could stop many. You have to sign up for a BBC account in order to watch anything on the BBC like the Top Gear specials and series. This is also relatively easy to do but if you’re outside the United Kingdom you have to tell a little fib and input a UK postcode for your home address. It doesn’t matter what UK postcode as long as it’s valid, and you also have to confirm you have a UK TV license as well. There’s no checks on this and as long as you have your UK connection set up but of course many travellers and people on holiday do in fact have a UK TV license anyway.
I for one, have despite my suspicions thoroughly enjoyed the latest Top Gear 2019 shows. It’s definitely worth a try if you’ve given the series a miss for a few seasons – there’s a good selection available on the BBC iPlayer. At the moment none of the earlier programmes like The Top Gear Burma special or similar are available on that platform but may be reintroduced into the future.